With the acceptance of cloud-based enterprise applications in mainstream businesses, the role of the IT manager for a small or medium enterprise has changed dramatically. Gone are the days of running around and building out data centers in all the closets, buying the latest servers and appliances, fighting for every budget dollar, and being hated by everyone in the company other than the receptionist. The IT manager has a choice to make in today’s world that almost every other career track has faced at some point in time: adapt or become extinct. If you are unwilling to change, it’s time to open a bookstore and commiserate with your endangered brethren about the evil Amazon.com empire over cups of latte.
For the rest of you, take notice of the new world order. Your company now depends on you to deliver a flawless environment for cloud access. What’s a guy or gal supposed to do? Here are a few of my tips for the IT manager in the era of cloud-computing:
1. Own the network. I mean really OWN it. Don’t treat it as the stepchild closet where your data switches and spare cleaning supplies live. You must have great Internet connections and they must be up – all the time. Buy Tier 1, symmetrical Internet access with a first rate SLA. What good is ten-thousand dollars a month of total cloud services if your $49.95 DSL is down? Next, clean your own house. For the LAN, you need to understand QoS, VLAN’s, Traffic Shaping and Policing. Implement them properly — don’t just learn the acronyms. Think about it – you have to settle the packet dispute between Dave’s YouTube video (in HD), Sally’s phone call with a client, or John’s data entry into payroll (which includes you). Which packets should win? Why? Did I mention that Dave is the CEO and likes to fire people if they mess with his YouTube?
2. Be the application expert. In the old days, when you installed the accounting software in your isolated IT island, you had to know every component and probably even bothered to learn a few things about the general ledger module and other business unit applications. Why bail out now? You should know all of your apps and how they are used. Monitor the apps and make sure they are up all the time. Be an active participant in funneling your company’s suggestions back to the vendors for improvement and be the number one advocate for your company. Try all the browsers on every application and recommend the fastest ones. We joined this profession to help people use technology – so DO IT.
3. Forget the devices. Focus on the data. In the client-server world, we sweated over every device in the office and dictated the exact make, model, color, serial number of every computer each person received. As a token of appreciation for our good intentions, some of us received opportunities to buy new tires or replace car windows. Forget about the clients – it’s a BYOD (bring your own device) world now. Instead, focus all your effort on making sure the company data is safe. Know all the ins and outs of your cloud vendor’s data policies and point out to the business where there are weaknesses. Be an advocate of privacy, but for the actual sake of privacy – not dictating whether the employee receives a 19-inch screen or a 22-inch screen.
4. Make it easy for your users while watching the company’s money. Logging into three or four systems to start your job every day is frustrating, especially when the password rules are different for every app. Deliver a robust SSO solution for your company (hey, try using a cloud based SSO company and show your renaissance) and while you are at it, track application usage. That guy in sales that was fired for interrupting a YouTube playing still has all his accounts open. You can detect and nicely close all the accounts all whilst saving the corporate dollar.
So go reinvent yourself and embrace the cloud. And, in doing so, preserve and improve a valued service and career path for most businesses.